Hello people of the world!
I'm back home from Skecon (4-6 November in Skellefteå, Sweden) and I must say that it was one hell of a journey! I went there with Sacchan, Firith and my friend Marcus and this time all but Firith went there as con workers. Contrary to previous Skecons this year's edition was held in Campus and not in the usual Folkparken. Campus is an university area consisting of several school buildings and, while it's different from Folkparken, it's actually not bad at all.
But now, summary time!
Friday morning came. I don't know how but somehow we all managed to worm us out of our beds and make ourselves look like humans for the trip ahead. Or at least we tried. When we were done we took our mountains of luggage and planted us into Sacchan's car. I remember thinking when leaving that I won't need my winter jacket, gloves or hats because it can't be colder in Skellefteå than up here – oh boy how I came to regret this later.
Before going to pick up Marcus from centrum we went to a shopping center to pick up a package and to buy some ES (aka energy drink). I texted Marcus when we were done with our business and it turns out that he had forgotten and hadn't prepared squat! Oh shit. D: I helped him speed-pack the necessities and then we left southwards.
We realized at some point that we'd never make it in time for the ideal "all workers should be at the con before 12:00" because the driving conditions were shit. For some reason all snow had fallen southwards from Kalix and it was really fucking weird to realize that even Luleå had a lot more snow than Haparanda did, for example. Basically looked like real winter and it felt unreal, considering the time of year and considering how late the snow has been in "southern Norrbotten" since the last 10-20 years. But yeah, even motherfucking Skellefteå had a major case of snow going on and all four of us were flabbergasted once we arrived. It was really something to realize that during the very first Skecon in 2012, which was held during the same time of year, there was no snow to be spoken of and now there was enough to look like we had time-traveled to January or February. I don't even.
|Skecon entrance after opening. (main building)|
|Casual me with my Skecon worker shirt.|
I look tired because I was tired.
Before the con I was told that workers shouldn't cosplay so that it's easier to see who is part of the staff and who's a regular attendant. All workers got these white Skecon shirts to wear and I got one with the text "funktionär" – I honestly don't know what it translates to but it's basically just that I'm part of the staff. Some people had shirts with texts like "team leader" so that it would be easier to figure out who has what position.
As soon as the clock struck 15:00 local time the con officially opened its doors to the workers. We had time to get the entrance reception ready and then it was time for our first working shifts. It's worth noting that all three of us were entrance workers, meaning that we took care of con tickets and also had to watch over the entrance so that no one without con bands entered the building etc.
My first shift was from 15:00 to 18:00 and it was by far the busiest pass I had during the whole weekend because yeah, opening rush. My other work shifts were night shifts and the last two hours of Sunday.
|Our table during the opening, feat Marcus and Sacchan.|
During the opening we were in charge of the ticket buying table, meaning that anyone who hadn't pre-ordered tickets (there was a separate table for that) could buy them for the regular price at our table – we sold one-day tickets and weekend tickets along with tickets for the sleeping accommodation and food tickets to the cafeteria. Payment options were restricted to either cash or Swish and it posed some problems because we had no way to accept credit card payments; that's something that would be good to add to future Skecons.
When the first customer rush had died down a bit we moved our table and later on the pre-order and the purchase table were united to just be one table. But yeah, because I was working the 3 first hours of the convention I had no time to actually go check the con out and as soon as our shift had ended we all were Godzilla-level hungry and headed straight to the nearest hamburger restaurant –aka Max– before anything else.
When we were walking in Skellefteå after sunset it dawned on us that it's hella cold and that there's enough snow to build a snowman. :DD I started worrying if the sleeping accommodation would be cold as fuck during the night but I tried not to worry about it too much and hey, that's the reason I took with me no less than 3 big wool blankets, two mattresses and my sleeping bag. But yeah, Max wasn't far away and the walk there probably didn't take us longer than 5 minutes. We ate some warm burgers (discount coupons are awesome) and then we headed back to the con. We made sure not to take too long because me and Sacchan had a second working shift during the Friday and it was from 21:00 to 00:00.
Honestly, the whole Friday I barely had time to check out what the con had to offer because I was either stuck to my working position or I was eating hamburgers. I did do a quick run around before my second pass but didn't have time to actually do any closer checks on anything. During my short amount of free time I helped Firith change into his casual Japan (Hetalia) cosplay that I let him borrow and I also took some photos of him later. I don't remember what else I did during that time but I do remember that once our second shift was done me, Sacchan and Firith were rather tired and just wanted to go sleep – the lack of sleep during the previous night took its toll. I remember asking the info workers for directions of where the sleeping accommodation was and received some vague description about an E-shaped building closeby. I wasn't told where exactly this was and so the three of us jumped into the car and tried to manage with what little information we had.
After circling around the Campus area for a while and being confused by the few "sovsal" (sleeping accommodation) direction signs we could find we randomly ran into Marcus outside. He had seemingly been looking for us and had some business with our car, aka he needed some of his sleeping stuff from the trunk. The thing is that Marcus had one of those 04:00 to 07:00 night/morning shifts and had decided that he'd try sleeping at the con, before his shift, instead of going to the actual sleeping accommodation. Nevertheless he and his long legs (he's a really fast walker/runner) decided to help us in our frustrating mission to find the damn sleeping place – the whole thing turned into a game of "Follow Marcus" while three of us sat in the car and slowly drove after him while he ran around and tried every door of every even remotely E-shaped building in the vicinity. xD Much to our disappointment all the doors were locked and then I got fed up with this guessing game and we drove back to the con building and asked for clearer directions. Turns out the building isn't even in the Campus grounds – Y U NO TELL ME THIS EARLIER?? (屮ﾟДﾟ)屮Oh well, some other guy with a car was heading there and he was kind enough to wait for us and so we followed him to the sleeping accommodation. Hori shitto, finally.
|A map showing the way from Skecon to the sleeping accommodation.|
Guess if this was available when we needed it? :-DD
I'm not sure why but for some reason we got to sleep the first night in an completely empty classroom and that was awesome. Later on in the night my friend Vicktor showed up in the same room, omg. I remember being able to sleep surprisingly damn well on the floor (what the heck? I never sleep well in these) and actually wasn't cold at all during the night! I was also happy that I had no early shifts on the Saturday and thus I could sleep longer.
|Just showing off the con band.|
Everyone was sleeping (except Marcus who wasn't there) until some worker came in and woke us up by saying that we have to get up because they will close the sleeping accommodation after 30 minutes. Turns out it's won't open again until ten in the night and if we needed something during the day we'd have to bring it with us. So yeah, nothing to do but change out of my pyjama, prepare to leave and wake up Vicktor who was still sleeping, unaware of anything thanks to earbuds and a sleeping mask. Vicktor was working at the con too, by the way. Not in the entrance though but in the RTF, aka Random Task Force.
Just before leaving we're told by another sleeping accommodation worker that there had been some error and they will have to move our stuff to another classroom. It was fine with us three as long as our request to still be in the same room and next to each other was still valid, which it was.
We exited the building, jumped into the car (Vicktor included) and asked each other who remembered the way back – no one did. Fuck. :'D So yeah, what was to follow was another one of those "we have no idea where we're going" trips around Skellefteå. We ended up with a dead end (thanks Vicktor xD) and drove around until we got lucky and somehow found our way out – although in a completely different place than yesterday. Oh well, despite the detour we found our way back to Campus!
|This year Skecon even had a new banner. :'D|
|Main hall/entrance area.|
|Cloakroom. Anyone could store their belongings here.|
It wasn't guarded but I didn't have anything stolen.
|The building's cafeteria. Too bad the opening times were really limited|
and it hurt the con.
|Cafeteria area. The stairs lead to the gaming room.|
|View of the Dealer's Hall.|
|Pokémon Go themed caps.|
|Dragon and fairytale statues. That was something new!|
|One of the Artist's Alley tables.|
|They were selling cute cat stickers!|
|The snack shop was selling these interesting|
|Budokan posters in Campushallen's basement floor.|
After that we got to watch the club members during their normal practice. They actually had a full training session during the con.
|Kendo teacher telling interested congoers about kendo.|
Once we had watched for a few minutes we moved over to another room and there anyone who wanted could pick up a shinai (bamboo practice sword) and the sensei went through some basic information. Of course he was a really funny and charismatic man and threw in some extra bits of info and funny visualizations. I really enjoyed watching him and it did freshen up my rusty memory.
I picked up a shinai and we were to practice standing in kamae (at least the sword part of it, lol) and then hit the other one's sword away to break their guard and get an opening. Not too sure why this was the focus because it seemed like no one except me had ever done kendo before and thus had no idea how to even hold the sword properly, even less do a proper strike. I actually ended up acting as a secondary sensei so that there would be two "opponents" for the newbies to practice with. It was fun to tutor two guys who seemed genuinely interested!
|Kendo sparring display.|
|Notice the dual-wielder to the right.|
|Display early samurai armor replica.|
He told a lot more stories too, like Japanese children (young kendokas) tasting Swedish candies after practice and immediately spitting them out in front of the giver, only to have their mom hit them and the kid then being all "it's good, it's good" out of politeness even though their face says a different tale – of course this also led into mutual laughter afterwards.
But the best story was the one about some Swedish guy with Cerebral Palsy. He is of the kind that has problems walking normally and his face is always "hanging" etc – it's really obvious that he's handicapped, in other words. The thing with this guy though is that he's really good at judo or karate, I can't remember which one. He applied to some kind of high-end Japanese university for budo sports and got accepted. Once he arrived you can imagine the chock when the Japanese realized that this is not an ordinary guy but a freako. In Japan, sensei told, it seems like handicapped people are an embarrassment to the society and thus you rarely see anyone in a wheelchair in public etc – I don't know how true this is but I assume he knows what he's talking about. So yeah, now that this obviously handicapped guy had already come this far the Japanese seemingly just wanted to send him back home as soon as possible and thus sent the best, scariest, beast of a guy to fight him on his next (first?) practice. Turns out this handicapped Swedish guy beat the living shit out of this monster the Japanese sent just to get rid off him. Guess if they got an eye-opener? :DD The respect that ensued was amazing and even nowadays when this guy holds lectures in Sweden about his handicap and martial arts some high-ranking Japanese budo masters will fly all the way just to listen to him. It's an amazing true story about how people can change their view on others.
One thing though is that because I stayed so long at the martial arts place I completely missed the Saturday's cosplay competition. Normally I wouldn't have cared but the thing is that Firith took part in it with his Ayame Sohma (Fruits Basket) cosplay and I would have liked to see it. Oh well, no can do.
I waited for Sacchan and Firith to come back from the competition (I was done with the budo a bit before the competition ended) and once they showed up I called Marcus and Vicktor to ask if they wanted to go eat. Both showed up and we took the car to....................... Max. Again. #maxläski
|Car filled with friends. #takapenkinfiilikset|
Marcus, Vicktor and Firith derping in the back seat.
Once we were done we headed back to the con and I went to change into cosplay. I had opened some new red circle lenses for Kashuu and I hadn't tried them on before the con and yeah, now that I was putting on my cosplay I worried that what if they are defective and I can't wear them etc. Luckily they were fine, except that they dried really quickly but, then again, that could be because of the expiry date being January, had I not opened them.
|Only photo proof that I wore Kashuu.|
|I found Illuminati! |
(on a random guy's overall)
|Gaming room. Consoles ranged from Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64|
to the newer generations.
|TCG table for both Magic: The Gathering as well as Pokémon.|
|Crafting corner. Mainly drawing.|
|A small chill corner. I regret a bit that I didn't take a photo of|
it during night time because there were some nice lights etc.
|Skecon also held a Pokémon tournament.|
|There were a lot of signs showing what was happening and when.|
|My beautiful tentacle. This is for you, Sacchan.|
|I had to do a Giggi because Giggi is love, Giggi is life.|
|Later on Sacchan came back to draw the Deviljho and the Memehunter. xD|
The thing is that on Sunday morning disaster happened. As soon as we got to the car (meaning me, Sacchan and Firith) and were about to start driving it became obvious that we wouldn't be driving anywhere. The car refused to start. Panic struck. We started thinking that it's hella weird that it would be too frozen to start because it had only been like 4-5 hours before it last was in use and after all it's not like there's -20 °C outside or something.
We started to fall into despair after several starting tries (car hardly even made a sound) and realized we're probably gonna be late for our work shifts. As if an answer to our prayers a random man with a young child is about to enter his car on the same parking lot and I ask him if he can help us. He said that it's probably something with the battery and that he could give us a ride, omg. ;_;
|At the info desk one could purchase something|
small to eat and drink. This was good considering
the poor opening times of the cafeteria.
|This is Mikael in his Pokémon outfit.|
Sacchan and some others went to Biltema to fetch a new battery. It took a couple hours and I stayed at the con overtime to wait for the others to return. Mikael offered to pay half of the cost and I'm seriously super thankful to him because we all were poor, especially Sacchan herself, whose car it is. The battery was changed into a smaller one but we were told that it would be enough to make the car function anyway.
The car started and we could leave Skecon behind us without further worries... or that's what I'd like to tell you. In the beginning everything went fine, we stopped at a gasoline station outside Skellefteå to fill the tank and continued northwards on the E4, the main road. We had time to drive a little bit under 30 kilometers when the car suddenly alarmed of battery malfunction. How is this possible, it was just changed? I freeze in panic, Sacchan panics even more and I can see that she is about to break down, tears are building at the corner of her eyes. I tell her to stop the car once someone in the backseat (Marcus or Firith) comments something that in the worst case it could blow up. The problem is that we're on the middle of the main road, on which one does not simply stop. But we have no choice but to park at the side of the road and put on the emergency lights. Sacchan has a complete mental breakdown, I'm about to cry because she's crying and I'm trying so damn hard to hold it in and try to comfort her instead. Marcus calls for help. Turns out they can't help us. He calls somewhere else and it turns out that we can't tow the car because of there being no towing insurance in the Finnish insurance company it's registered in, or something. Besides, no one of us could probably afford it anyway.
So yeah, we prepare for the cold (it's cold outside) and take the blankets and just sit and wait until someone eventually stops to help us, which is unlikely because we're on the main road on which stopping is forbidden. We waited about 45 minutes before a car came to our aid, a middle-aged couple who happened to have the equipment –and the heart– to tow us to the nearest village, a place called Byske. They left us at Byske bus station and I couldn't help but wonder what kind of humor God has that it had to be Byske of all possible places in Sweden. You guys probably don't know but ever since Skecon a few years back Byske has been dubbed "Sweden's Simo", thanks to Sacchan and her little brother Joni's comment when they took the bus that year and it stopped at Byske. Joni said the legendary comment, something along the lines of "Mitä helvettiä, ollaanko me Simossa?" (translates to "what the hell, are we in Simo?") and it has been an inside joke since then.
Now that we were stranded in Byske there were few options one could take. One was the bus but three out of four of us wouldn't have the money for that and I have no idea how in hell we'd get all our luggage with us either. Marcus got the contact information to a local mechanic but turns out that the guy is away from the town and wouldn't be back for God knows how long. Sacchan is still feeling like shit but manages to call her parents for help – her dad works with cars and heavy vehicles and would drive down all the way from Finland to help, although not amused.
Meanwhile we wait we prepare for the worst. It gradually gets colder and I'm so fucking thankful that despite this catastrophe we were more than well prepared for it with a lot of extra blankets, extra food etc – luck in misfortune. I have no idea how long we stayed in the car but at some point I got a sudden headache and Firith could instantly tell that it was related to the cold after my description. I don't even know how to explain that feeling when you end up in this kind of sudden and even dangerous situation. It's really weird. At some point your survival insticts kick in...
Marcus managed to go ask at a nearby foodstore if we could warm us in there and they were okay with it; I'm kinda surprised that anything was even open on a Sunday afternoon/evening in a small village like this. I was prepared to be forced to sit in the car until everyone slowly gets hypotermia. But yeah, we got out of the car and headed for the foodstore everyone was so damn frozen – I think Firith might have said something having problems to walk. We chilled in there until I felt like I was about to go crazy of waiting. I know we were stuck in Byske for over 5 hours, with everyone's phones low on battery and with shitty phone network too. The feeling when you try so hard not to panic that you almost turn apathetic in the end. You could almost touch the despair.
After forever Sacchan's mother suddenly show up in the foodstore. I swear seeing her face at that moment was like the best thing that could ever happen – it meant that we were about to finally get out of this frozen hell.
Sacchan's dad somehow got the car to start again and for a moment it seemed almost too easy. Me and Marcus went to sit in Sacchan's parents car while Firith and Sacchan were in her car. We barely had time to exit Byske before the car suddenly died again – oh fuck. This time it took a lot longer to fix and I'm not sure what exactly her dad did but he put something inside the car and did something with some cables. It started working again. Sacchan's dad made sure to drive in front and constantly check that his daughter was following behind, during the whole trip.
The driving conditions north from Byske but before Piteå were absolutely horrible. Talk about snowstorm. It was snowing so much that one could barely see one meter ahead and the road was almost impossible to see as well. Really scary, to be honest. Luckily it didn't last for much more than maybe 20 kilometers – what you mean local snowstorm?
I'm not sure how but Sacchan managed to drive her car all the way to Haparanda before it finally died outside Marcus' apartment, after doing some weird sounds. It had to be towed the rest of the way. Sacchan later told me that during the last 100 km the car had started warning about the battery and it's a miracle that it even worked for that long.
So yeah, despite the horrible end (that ended sort-of-well) Skecon this year was a good convention. It was clear that there were some issues with the information and organization but considering what a short time frame they probably had to work with I can't blame them for it. Campus as a con building works and I must say that I really liked that the "comfy corner" was back, been missing it since the very first Skecon in 2012. Too bad there was no anime karaoke room this year though, Firith would have loved that. Regarding working at Skecon I had fun and it was a giving experience – I'm sure that I'd like to work again at future Skecons too! Once again it's the people that make a con go from good to great. Skecon sure has potential and even though it's clear that they had a smaller budget than before they made it work decently. I will definitely keep attending Skecon and bring my friends there. Thanks for this experience and thanks to all the amazing people I met!
Thanks for reading and stay cool!
~ Shiro Samurai out.